Monday, December 08, 2008

The Journey of Life

We transverse this existence we term life hoping to find a purpose or reason but many times in doing so we pass over the wonder that is the journey. Life doesn't have a path that it lays out for us, life merely is, it is we who bring the journey to it. To some life is mundane, to others it is divine and sacred, others it is a myriad of possibilities and probabilities and to others still it is as we so often put it these days "it is what it is". We pass day by day in a routine that we have acquired through days, months, weeks and years of habits. The sorrows of yesterday slow dissipate into the numbness of today with the hope of happiness of tomorrow.

We live in a world that isn't always fair, more often than not it is unjust and appears to be remorseless and full of suffering. Infants die every day without reason, little children are sold into slavery, women are abused and degraded, men are sent to their deaths for no other reason as someone else's incentive and interest. People kill and are killed over land, food, money and objects of desire. Insentient property is sometimes given more weight and influence than lives of beings. Lives are destroyed and snuffed out without so much a whimper. Many of us feel helpless as the weight of the world and our existence burdens our lives like the baggage that is placed on the back of a donkey, yet we continue trudging along forward, or backward, as one may opt to see it.

Most of you who read this live a comfortable life, including me, or at least a more comfortable life than 99% of the world. Buddha says that "Existence is suffering." The majority of the suffering we see exists in a world that appears to be in a world away or at least outside the confines of our immediate consciousness. It re-asserts itself once in a while when we pick up a newspaper, open up a news website or switch on the television. Once we close that paper, site or turn off the television that world of suffering goes back to being somewhere out there and not here with us, we return the world that comforts us in the dark like a warm blanket in midst of a cold spell.

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with the pain of those we see and with that pain also accompanies this impotence that how can we do anything to alleve this suffering, if not for others but for ourselves. We sometimes lose sight of the all encompassing idea that the pain of others is our own, in their happiness is ours. Can it be denied that our hearts tug when we see the plights of the millions of children all over the world without food or water, with out families and without a proper chance at a life that they inherently deserve? Can it also be denied that when we see a child smile or laugh in joy and amusement that a part of us hearkens back to the days we were ourselves children, enjoying the afternoons with our friends and evenings with our families?

Life gives each of us an opportunity to begin and continue on a journey of our own making, sometimes that journey is beleaguered with extreme difficulty and obstacles and other times it is as if the path is cleared and one has an easily accessible vehicle to careen through the journey. The former builds our character and shapes our approach to the world in a much more substantial manner. The latter presents us opportunities to do something for the individuals who are struggling with their journey. We can use our vehicles to clear the paths for the others who are finding the journey of life difficult but doing so might divert us away from the open path we are presented with.

Every being on this planet and in existence faces some moments of dense and obscure jungle to navigate but it is in our ability to ground our moments of difficulty in comparison with others that allows us to determine our own journey. Charity, compassion, equanimity and action are the universal religion and spirituality of all beings. Placing our own problems into a larger context and relating to others empowers us, it allows us to gain a sense of control and overcome the impotence we may feel to the nearly insurmountable burdens of life. Buddha also says "A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity." Our lives present us with a chance to learn from experience and impart that experience to others. When we act compassionately to our fellow beings and do so with equanimity of mind and desire to do charity we empower and renew ourselves.

When we are wronged it behooves us to try and prevent that wrong from being experienced by another. Even if it is something that appears minuscule to us, such as giving 20 dollars a month to help some child have food or shelter, or even giving food to a homeless person, or talking to someone who needs talking to or even listening, it is something more than we have done before. Human beings are social animals and we need to feel as if we matter and have some sort of connection or impact to those around us even if they happen to be strangers. Take every day as a chance to make it a better day, a day well lived and loved. A day of compassion and hope. In doing so maybe our own meager or even gargantuan sorrows and problems might be ever so slightly lightened. Just look into the eyes of the person, you give hope to and you yourself will find your own hope and potency growing. Strength is found in both actions and words.

There is a wonderful exhortation written by the 4th century sanskrit playwright Kalidasa in his Ritusamhara (The Garland of Seasons), it is aptly titled Usha Vandanam or the Exhortation of the Dawn: "Look to this day!
For it is Life, the very Breath of Life.
In its brief course lie all the varieties
And realities of your existence :
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty.
For yesterday is already a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today well-lived, makes every
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day!
Such is the salutation of the dawn.